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Identifying carbohydrates

A person with diabetes should learn to identify foods that contain carbohydrates. Mealtime insulin doses are also based on the amount of carbohydrates in meals.

Carbohydrates are glucogenic energy nutrients. They are divided into sugars and starches, which are absorbed, and fibres, which are not. Carbohydrates are consumed on a daily basis based on individual need and appetite.

At rest, the body consumes approximately 6 g of glucose per hour (1 g per 10 kg per hour). During physical exercise, the need for glucose can multiply. The basic need for carbohydrates is approx. 130–150 g per day. During physical exercise and manual labour, you typically need around 20–40 g per hour more, depending on how strenuous the exercise is as well as personal factors. If you do not get enough carbohydrates from food, your liver produces glucose from proteins and the glycerol contained in fat.

Everyone with diabetes should learn to identify foods that contain carbohydrates. Grain products, fruits and berries as well as dairy products are important sources of energy and nutrients for our bodies, and they contribute to your rising blood sugar level after a meal. The amount of carbohydrates in different meals varies depending on the meal as a whole, portion size, dish and your appetite.

The table and video below show which foods contain carbohydrates and which foods do not need to be included when calculating the amount of carbohydrates.

When calculating carbohydrates

Take into account

Does not need to be counted

Fruits, berries, 100% fruit or berry juices


Bread, porridge, cereal, muesli, baked products

Fats, nuts, almonds, seeds

Potato, pasta, rice and other crushed grain

Meat, fish, poultry, egg

Liquid or sweetened dairy and plant-based products (e.g. oat and soy drinks)

Cheese, whole-meat cold cuts, sausages

Sugar, honey, sweets, chocolate, drinks sweetened with sugar

Unsweetened coffee and tea, unsweetened mineral water, artificially sweetened soft drinks and juices

Updated 30.9.2023